Jason Borger, Nature of Fly-Casting, a Modular Approach
Reviewed by Ben Spinks
Well I know what you're thinking, probably the same thing I was when Paul asked me to do this. Is it April the first? Has he momentarily lost the plot? Is he smoking something? If so, where can I get some?
"A book review, so you mean I've got to read a book then?"
"Does it have many pictures?"
"All the way through?"
"Do I get to keep it?"
"You bought it"
"DEAL!!" (Ha, sucker)
I had however been hearing about this book for quite a while now, it had been hailed as the most comprehensive fly-casting text ever, which I must admit intrigued me more than a little as after having seen quite a few I couldn't really imagine what more could be done. It was the day of the Chatsworth angling fair that I finally found out for myself.
Our faces met across a crowded tent with a leaky roof and a mud-lined floor, it was love at first sight, the tantalizingly sealed glossy exterior had cast its spell.
I tried to leave when, "put my daughter down, you don't need to do this son, there are other ways of finding dubbing"
There was nothing I could do, those nymphs would just have to wait, so I jumped over the fence with my copy of Jason Borger's new book instead.
This book is a chunky item of 302 pages; I had assumed the reason for this would be down to the abundance of large pictures, not so. It is practically all text; there are no photos, just hand drawn explanatory diagrams. Jesus!! I thought, I didn't know there was this much to fly casting, but being pretty much into this sort of stuff I got quite excited all the same.
Whilst Flicking through the contents I couldn't help noticing how much was covered in this book, a ten page contents, bloody hell. Here's a basic overview of the books contents:
Chapter 1 - The secret of fly-casting
Chapter 2 - The foundation casting stroke & the three phases
Chapter 3 - Grip & stance
Chapter 4 - A Cast: The overhead cast module
Chapter 5 - In the air mending
Chapter 6 - In the air line control
Chapter 7 - On the water line control
Chapter 8 - Angles, Ellipses & Circles
Chapter 9 - Rolls & Tensions
Chapter 10 - Spey's
Chapter 11 - Curves (not what you're thinking, unfortunately)
Chapter 12 - On the water mending & pickups
Chapter 13 - Hauling
Chapter 14 - Long distance & wind
Chapter 15 - Minor casts
Chapter 16 - Accuracy & leaders
Appendix A - Rod, reel & line system (essentials I think)
Appendix B - Modular overview
Appendix C - Bibliographical resources
Nestled in amongst this ample range of subject matter is no less than approximately 241 additional subheadings including everything from thrusting, knee pumping and drooling to swingers, creepers and sweepers. It contains a truly huge amount of information, and something called a strip/tease module, hmmm!
So, it's a casting book, a big chunky text filled casting book, but what makes it different? What is this modular approach? And where does it all lead?
Simplicity or, 'the simple answer' as the author puts it is "a solid foundation upon which the whole of fly casting can be built". This foundation forms the basis of fly-casting, the core components separated in to individual skills so as to allow a complete bottom up approach. Nothing revolutionary here information wise, but it is written in a somewhat unique way. Enter the modular approach.
The modular approach is based around learning a language for fly-casting, or, "a text enhanced symbolic language for the reading and writing of fly casting".
The thinking behind this approach centres around seeing every cast component, skill if you like, as an individual module.
Each skill builds on another; you therefore take the individual modules and fit them together in the form of casts, like building blocks.
To explain further there are two main types of module. One, a simple module (SM), a module consisting of only one skill, and two, a compound module (CM), a combination of simple modules. For example, the back cast, pause and forward cast are all simple modules, fit them together however and they become an overhead cast, thus a compound module.
Specific aspects of the cast, such as stopping position, are known as sub modules (Sub M). So for example, in the right hand corner of the forward cast block there would be an additional box (the subM) indicating (~) + 45º, suggesting that the stop be made at around 45 degrees to the horizontal. Still with me, this is the simple answer to all our fly-casting dreams by the way.
Further more, modules can be written in two ways. The blocks can either be stacked, or placed end to end, the former representing skills that occur simultaneously and the latter skills that occur one after the other.
The whole book revolves around this modular language, he doesn't give you the cast written for quite everything, instead you are given the individual blocks and encouraged to put them together yourself. Despite linking the writing of a symbolic language to the building of skills, it is optional, it is an interesting way of looking at the subject and after a while it isn't really that difficult to get to grips with, but if you were to completely remove this aspect from the book it would still work perfectly well. So if you really are the type to attempt writing down your casts then good, but if you're not into that kind of thing don't worry, you don't need to learn it, a lot can be gained from this book without having to learn any new languages. Remember, the modular approach is *based* around learning a language for fly-casting, it isn't reliant on it.
Lets face it though, if you have started writing down casts you really should start thinking about getting laid pretty soon before you start looking a little too much like a train spotter. Sorry, fact of life.
However, reading and writing fly-casting aside, there are some things that are important to go through if the remainder of the book is to make sense.
The foundation casting stroke & the three phases
Nature of fly-casting works in a very orderly, specific way. You don't have to learn the symbolic language, that's not all the modular approach is about; it is nice, but nothing essential. What this book is really about is building from the ground up. Starting, not surprisingly, with the foundation casting stroke.
The foundation casting stoke, in the words of the author, is "the skill upon which all the other skills presented in this book will be built - including short distance casts, long distance casts, curves, mends, everything". The stroke, simple as that, what more can I say. Rather than going head long into the overhead cast with all guns blazing like many books I've read, the author has separated the key points that define the cast, any cast for that matter, to illustrate its core value. Basically saying that every cast centres around this one aspect, and that all else are mere variations of the same concept. As the title suggests, it is a foundation.
Following this comes the three phases of fly-casting, ALE. Or, Acceleration, Loop formation and Energy transfer. I won't go into this too deeply, simply speaking it is just the foundation stroke separated into three parts. An acceleration giving way to the beginnings of loop formation followed by the energy transfer (the stop in other words). The beginnings of a basic cast.
The books driving concept works on the basis that you learn the basic stroke (FCS) and then you add on a bit more by looking a little deeper into a cast by adding the three phases (ALE), the idea being that when, for example, the overhead cast is reached, you simply take the knowledge gained from the FCS/ALE and apply it to the formation of an overhead cast, or switch cast, or Spey cast, which in turn have their own defining characteristics that gradually build up and can be applied to various other casts later on. The entire book is built around the foundation casting stroke and the three phases, all major casts are simply variations stemming from these two concepts. They are the mortar between the bricks so to speak.
So what's it like?
Look into my eyes and tell me that you love me
Despite liking the concept this book has to offer I'm not quite ready for the kind of commitment Mr Borger is asking for. On reflection the books basic premise is very good, I'll be honest though, after flicking through it for the very first time it quickly found itself lying on a shelf for two months, whilst I read the essence of fly-casting again. If it weren't for Paul asking me to do a review it would probably still be there.
You really have to sit down and *read* this book properly, you have to want to learn, you almost have to study it. This book is written in a very textbook like style, it is straight, utilitarian information that is quite reminiscent of some of the university texts I have been forced to buy over the last few years. You can't really flick thought it, as one part builds on another, if you skip certain parts, particularly the beginning, you will not be aware of some of the terminology, abbreviations and cast aspects you will need to understand parts of the following sections or chapters. For example, if I flick straight to the tuck cast I will not be able to fully understand it, as it includes the overpowered curve, an aspect discussed on the page before. Both the chapters and subheadings within them gradually build on themselves, in some respects it forces you to learn. If you skip a chapter you will most likely miss something used further on, resulting in turning back becoming a frequent occurrence.
The fundamentals of this book are not complicated, but the author goes into such minute detail on all fronts that the greatly stressed simplicity of early on in the book fades to black very quickly indeed. Ironically, the simple answer spans around 36 pages for example. Most chapters show the basic principles fairly simply with minimum text and descent explanatory drawings; it is the detail that adds the bulk. This is not simply a 'how to' book, it does show you how, but it also shows you why, and it shows it to the N-th degree.
As a result of this I wouldn't call it a wonderfully readable book, it is techy and engineer like, which results in a slight lack of personality and va va voom at times, for me it just does not get the creative juices flowing. I know I know, casting instructions aren't meant to be like that, but it just didn't really make me want to read on all that much, I found myself reading across, down and diagonally at the same time on more than one occasion. What can I say, it lacks sex appeal.
But don't shoot me down in flames just yet, I haven't quite finished. Whilst Mr Borger does encourage the whole spectrum of skill levels to come and learn, it's plainly obvious that only one end of that spectrum will arrive. This is a casters book, plain and simple, there is a lot of good information here, everything is covered, and I mean *everything*. Nothing really new in the way of casing as far as I can tell, on first impressions I thought there would be judging by the amount of new terminology (new to me), but it's mostly just that, terminology, different opinions of the same thing in a lot more detail. I would go so far as to suggest that it is more of an instructor's wet dream than anything else.
For this audience it is without doubt the best thing since sliced bread, in fact, if an instructor even just hints at lending you his copy, "just say no", go and buy your own, one where the pages aren't stuck together.
Despite the lack of sex appeal it is probably the best reference book going. It has been put together in an interesting way, it's well written, the drawings are clear and easily understandable - despite possessing some rather demonic looking grins - and the emphasis that Mr Borger places on the techniques and styles of others, as well as his own, is a nice touch for those looking for the complete fly casting experience. I imagine the target audience of this book being the type of fishers that will really appreciate the work that has gone into it and will want to make the effort in following the path the author has laid down.
What more can I say, one man's Barbados is another man's Bognor Regis, for some it'll be like passing a kidney stone, whilst for others it'll be like passing brothel with a clearance sale poster in the window. For the group this book targets I can't fault it, it's a near perfect synthesis of the information - if a little utilitarian - and I do think I am gradually beginning to like it. I didn't think I would at first, for a long time in fact, but every time I think of some thing to do with casting that I'm curious and unsure about I know where to find it. Brilliant!
To be perfectly honest I would encourage *all* to at least take a look at this book, I do get the feeling it is trying to be too many things to too many people and can result in information overload at times, but the pure fact that this book does contain so much means that with a little patience everyone can get at least something worthwhile out of it.
Mind you, I felt the strip/tease module to be a huge anticlimax.
Reviewed by Paul...
The reason I brought Ben in will should be obvious to all; I needed a review from someone who isn't currently an instructor… the fact that he announced that he'd just bought himself a copy of the book had nothing to do with my decision. And I flatly deny all allegations he has made to the contrary.
The fact that it's taken us over 15 months to review this book says something. That's the other reason I brought Ben in; I needed someone I could blame, yes that's it, the reason it took 15 months to review this book is Ben's fault, in spite of the fact that he only bought the book five months ago.
So to the book.
From an instructor's point of view. The book's main premise is the modular system; a system of breaking down casts into little lego boxes. I like it. Speaking as someone who has written about flycasting, most of which apparently has been misunderstood, and the rest of it being quite probably wrong, once the system is understood, the Modular Approach certainly makes life easier. But, you do have to understand the system. If you don't understand the system and just turn willy-nilly to whatever page takes your fancy, you will have absolutely no idea of what is being conveyed, despite everything Ben has just written. I tried it – I never begin a book at the beginning, I always start somewhere in the middle, or if not in the middle then at the end, and with Jason's book I tried this and found myself backtracking until I found myself at the very first page, which pissed me off of course.
Once you've grasped the concept it's easy as pie, or as Jason puts it, "Good to hear you like the Modular Approach, Paul. The whole idea was to provide some tangible way to organize and logically express what many of us do in our own way either consciously or subconsciously (or to free up the mind-set that something like a Belgian Cast is its own critter separate from all else, when really it is just pieces arranged in a certain way). From the feedback I have gotten from a number of readers, especially those trying to get over the intermediate hump, the system has helped to solidify their mental organization and focus for practice."
The book's a bit like that.
Which is no bad thing of course, just an observation. But hey the *US* is like that, sometimes; just wait until we review the Bill Gammel video ;) Personally I'd like to see more of the critter and less of its bollocks, because I reckon that would make for a much cooler book; the few times that Jason reveals himself he's actually quite funny.
This book is not a beginner's book, Ben just said that, and he's right, surprisingly. The sort of guy (and it's a guy's book, sorry) who would actually enjoy this book and get something out of it, is the sort of caster who reads the Board, perhaps without understanding it, like me sometimes. Basically it's "techy". I'm quite sure that when Jason wrote this book he had instructors in the back of his mind. Which is fine of course, just so long as you know. And actually in my opinion it goes to make it all the more interesting.
Personally I've learned much from this book from both teaching and casting standpoints, indeed every page makes me think about something. It *has* made me a better caster and there are some brilliant teaching tricks nestled amongst the pages. In this respect it really is excellent, and I reckon is the best thing out there. It's not a feeling book, but so what? It's coming at you from another angle.
The target audience, I can't help thinking, is the readership of this site, and as such it's right on the mark. If you are into the technical aspect of flycasting, then you'll be into this book. Personally I just don't think there's enough of Jason in it, and that's my only criticism. It's good, in fact it's very good, but it would be considerably better still if it was "Jason Borger goes flycasting for critters". Then it would be frightening.
If you are an intermediate caster, then go and buy this book; it will make you a better caster, no question, and may be just the catalyst you need, it's clear, concise, well written and well put-together – just be careful not to solidify your mental organization too much, that's always been one of my problems in life – and if you're an instructor, then of course you just have to read it, but you knew that anyway.
The Nature of Flycasting retails in the US for $29.95 and you can buy it through Jason's site www.jasonborger.com. If there are enough people in the UK/Europe interested I'll buy a box load, which will save shipping costs, and make us some money, so drop me an email if you're interested :)
Ben Spinks (email@example.com) writes for this site every other Thursday, hangs out with Carp fishermen, prefers the company of women to that of flycasting instructors, as do women actually, and if you want him to review your book just send him a copy and five months notice :)
Paul Arden (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes for this site every day, sometimes more, hangs out with travel bums and hippies, prefers the company of women to that of flycasting instructors, as do all flycasting instructors, and if you want him to review your book just send him a copy and eighteen months notice :)